Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fresh fava beans

Why yes, this picture is taken in the light of'll come to know, that big round yellow shiny thing that now and then, lately very rarely, shows itself in the sky--oh, the sunSun sun sun sun sun! Dear Sun, lovely Sun, welcome Sun, warm Sun, late Sun!  Please stay!  Please warm this place and melt the two feet or more of snow that still blanket most of my garden, though in the area where it is not, crocuses are blooming, the first pretty thing I have seen outside for a whole six months!  I am so starved for natural beauty!  Like the rest of Edmonton, Canada, so very starved! 

It was a minor joyous moment, therefore, when I found these fresh fava beans in H&W Produce today.  You never know what you'll find there.  These are the first fresh fava beans I have ever seen, anywhere.  As you might imagine, I scooped up a pound (what you see above is one pound) and skipped home with them in high delight (and in sunlight--though it was cold, windy sunlight, whatever, it didn't matter, it was sunlight.  Edmonton is supposed to be sunny most of the time, the wide open prairie sky and all that).  Well. 

I already knew what to do with them, because I've been reading about fresh fava beans in Madhur Jaffrey's books for twenty years.  I've tried favas both canned and dried in the past.  The dried ones are okay, but you can tell that they'd be a very different thing fresh.  The canned ones--just don't go there, don't buy them, they're always tinny and grey and gross, at least in my experience.  Fresh ones are not gross, and they're certainly not grey:

Click for a closeup.  The plump, gorgeous, velvety green beans are nestled in little beds of down inside their pods.  Despite best efforts, these pictures aren't doing the real colours justice.  Pale early green on the edges, melting into deeper pools of colour nearer the middle, these beans are transcendently, perfectly beautiful. 

One pound yields approximately four ounces of shelled beans:

But you can't use them yet.  Like the dried variety, the outer shell of the fresh favas is very leathery and tough.  I'm fairly tolerant of tough skins, but tried one and had to admit that it was pretty much inedible.  Madhur Jaffrey wonders in World of the East Vegetarian Cooking why fresh fava beans aren't more popular in North America.  I'd venture to guess this is why: in order to make them edible, you have to boil them for five minutes or so, then run them under cold water to cool them:

See how the skins are kind of loosening from the inner bean?
Then, one at a time, break one end of the leathery skin and slip the inner bean out:

Here's what you end up with:

Oh, that green!  Surprisingly, because they look heavy, the skins don't seem to weigh much, so the inner beans from one pound of fresh favas still come to just under four ounces.

Also at H&W, they had some lovely tomatillos!
The beans aren't quite cooked and still have a slightly raw, bitter taste.  I could have left them boiling in another five minutes, then removed the skins, tossed them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and thyme to have them plain, which is a common way to serve them in the Mediterranean, apparently.  But what I did was put them into the Chili verde con papas from Appetite for Reduction.  I've been featuring this cookbook a lot on my blog lately, but this is more the luck of the draw than anything, as I've been cooking all sorts of things.  At any rate, this was pretty good, and satisfyingly complex to prepare.  It contains a lot of kale.  It's also so lo-cal you can eat practically a ton of it and come out of the experience feeling satisfied and bursting with health.  Honest to pete, I've never felt so healthy as now that I'm padding pretty much everything I eat with extra veggies, so this recipe is right up my alley these days:

It's topped with mung bean sprouts I made myself so I could at least watch something growing.  Yum!


  1. Haha, oh yes, THAT yellow thing. I'm waiting for fresh fava beans around here but recently subbed frozen lima beans for fresh fava beans (a little less work) in one of Hannah Kaminsky's (Bittersweet Vegan) recipes that was delicious.
    I must have missed this recipe in AfR but I'm going to look for it now!

  2. I hope that big yellow thing comes to your parts soon! Congrats on the fava find; they are an exciting harbinger of Spring. The chili verde sounds like a perfect way to use them...eating all that green is bound to make the Spring come soon.

  3. I think I saw that big yellow thing here for a couple of days. But it's gone now... I love fava beans in foul moudammas, which I've had in Middle Eastern restaurants, but I've always been too intimidated to try cooking fresh ones. Maybe I should be less lazy and give them a try if I ever come across some fresh ones again. Have you ever tried the frozen variety?